wild mountain thyme and prematurely dying basil

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by siduri, Sep 7, 2013.

  1. siduri

    siduri

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    Hi everyone.  Thought i'd ask some experts on these two problems.  Several years ago we were in the mountains in Abruzzo and came across a whole mountainside covered in thyme- the smell was beautiful.  I took a small sprig with the roots and planted it in a pot on my terrace in rome (sunny all day in summer, shady all day in winter - summer gets to close to 100 for anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months).  It flourished well and is now a big clump about as big as a melon.  But the upper stems are now getting  bare, though the ones below them are green, and it's all gone to flower.  Should i do anything? cut the flowers off, prune off the dried branches (they have flowers, but no leaves) or leave well enough alone. 

    Also it;s certainly not fall-like yet, the temp is between 85 and 90, but my basil, both purple leaf and green leaf, which was doing very well all summer, looks fall-like - the leaves have become pale and half have fallen off.  I water it as usual. 

    Both herbs are against the wall separating my terrace from my neighbor's, and it has a little more shade than the rest of the terrace, maybe 3 or 4 hours less  of direct sun - when the sun is high it's all sunny and very hot. 

    thanks
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2013
  2. genemachine

    genemachine

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    I keep my herb garden low maintenance - The plants have evolved to live without our meddling. However, you can probably cut it back - remove the flowers and prune the dried and dead bits. It will surely recover! Also, if "pale" for the leaves means "yellow-ish", you might want to fertilize a bit.
     
  3. siduri

    siduri

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    Thanks Gene.  I also do noithing but water my herbs, but the pale yellowish leaves of the basil could be lack of fertilizer i guess.  Can't hurt. 
     
  4. genemachine

    genemachine

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    Pale leaves is often a sign of a lack of magnesium. I do not fertilize that specifically, though, just a general, mixed organic fertilizer based on guano. That usually does the trick.
     
  5. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    Your thyme could be root bound in the pot. Probably best to split it into fourths right through the root ball from the top down. Tease out the roots a bit, then repot each of them with more soil. Trim off the bare stems. Get them established, then give away the ones you don't need or want to keep.
     
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  6. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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     Root bound?????
     
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  7. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    Root bound: The roots have grown and used up the available space and heavily depleted the soil. 

     
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  8. siduri

    siduri

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    I thought of that too, Phatch, but the thyme is on one end of a longish (maybe 18 inch) pot, and there is plenty of space with nothing else in it.  Seems strange. 

    The basil has few roots and a relatively big pot. 

    puzzling
     
  9. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    If your thyme is now flowering, do not trim the plant at all. You still can use sprigs of thyme with the flowers on, they have the same strong aroma. After the flowers are gone, you can trim a little, maybe one inch on an older plant. Be sure to never cut too low; when you cut below the green leaves, the plant will not grow back. Thyme grows in the wild in very harsh conditions, mostly in almost no fertile soil at all. When re-planting you should not go for standard commercial soil. Thyme hates water around its roots and grows best in a very dry soil (read extremely dry soil) with lots of grit in it or even better in ashes. The main concern with thyme is always to drain water asap away from the roots. Also, restrict fertilizer to almost nothing on thyme and... don't give it too much water.

    Basil is another story. Gene is right about fertilizing it. Also, this is the time where basil will start to produce flowers. You will notice flower buds starting to develop on top of nearly each branch. Just pinch them out, all of them; if you don't do it, your basil will put all its energy in producing flowers and no longer in leaves. I always cut 8-10 cm stalks from my basil for use, this works much better than picking just a few leaves. It keeps your basil young and the stalks always grow back and more abundantly.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2013
  10. siduri

    siduri

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    Thanks chris

    the thyme is practically all flowers on completely bare woody stalks or below these, green leaves and flowers.  I water daily because the terrace is too hot.  same soil over several years now, no fertilizer. 

    for the basil, yes, i always cut off the flowers first, and cut the top parts of the plant but there are no flowers, and it seems to have no energy for anything at all. I will use fertilizer, but have to buy some.  can i put somethintg i may have in the house into the soil?
     
  11. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    Siduri, if you have some kind of fertilizer at home, by all means do use it. But, basil is very near to its end for this season. Maybe you can keep your basil somewhat longer in your warm region. Fertilizing may be a little late, but you never know. If you have some liquid fertilizer that's used mainly for flowering plants, don't hesitate to use that, it mostly works very fast.

    Your thyme on the other hand seems to enjoy its spot on your terrace.
     
  12. siduri

    siduri

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    Actually i don't - ran out at the beginning of the season (i'm not a great gardener and once it gets hot you can't get me out under that sun) - what i was thinking of was food products that might function as fertilizer.  rotten fruit, or milk or something. 
     
  13. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    Using organic stuff on a terrace may not be the best solution. It will attract insects, mold/fungus, your neighbor's cat, your neighbor himself when it starts to smell badly...

    There is something that I regularly use: ...blood! Indeed, we all go to supermarkets and buy meat, packed in styrofoam.  Many times there will be a just a bit of blood at the bottom. Simply add double the amount of water to that and give it to your basil. It will love it!

    A bit more drastic (but certainly a bad joke, hope you don't mind) is... using grandma's ashes.
     
  14. genemachine

    genemachine

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    The blood goes into the sauce, Chris :)

    I have several raised beds on my terrace - i.e. troughs that hold about 250 liters of soil. Using it for my herbs and the chilis. I don't have to fertilize much, since I load the beds with good compost in spring, that keeps em in nutrients throughout the year, mostly. Adding a bit of guano based solution throughout the summer, before that I place some horn shavings and some pelletized bullc**p in it. Herbs grow like mad. Even with nighttime temperatures dropping below 10°C these days, yeah, right...., my basil is still going strong.
     
  15. siduri

    siduri

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    Chris - aha, blood! i knew there'd be something. i'll keep it in mind.  Will vegetarians eat herbs that have been fed blood? 

    horn shavings, gene?
     
  16. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    Interesting question about the vegetarians but too far over my head to come up with an answer to that, I'm sure it could cause utter confusion with our vegetarian friends too.

    But the blood suggestion as a fertilizer is very valid and I keep doing it the whole season. Good garden centers sell blood-meal, which is... next to Gene's horn-meal on the same shelf! Both horn-meal and blood-meal are considered long-lasting fertilizers, a bit forgotten by the larger public but very efficient products. Blood-meal is simply 100% dried blood and horn-meal grinded cattle horn.

    Same with the organic pellets that Gene mentions. In spring when I re-plant my plant pots, I always add a few handfuls of dry-but-smelly organic pellets, consisting of combined dried "souvenirs" from chicken/horse/cow to my pot soil, another long-lasting fertilizer.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2013
  17. siduri

    siduri

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    We used to have a vegetable garden when i was a kid, Chris, and also a chicken coop.  You can imagine the great stuff that mixing one with the other grew!

    I used to buy oxblood fertilizer (it was dry sort of a powder, clumpy powder if i remember).  I should go back to that,  I used guano for some years and also those slow-release pellets (though those seem not to do much of anything. Makes me think the stinkier the better)



    When i ponder things like if vegetarians would eat basil fertilized with blood (or about milk in chinese cuisine), that's a sure sign i have a lot of work i should be doing and am trying to find ways to put it off /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif
     
  18. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    Gene, this is how my basil looks now; starts to turn somewhat yellow and the leaves are not so tender anymore. However, taste is still perfect. It's getting a lot colder and gray and dark and rainy... not my kind of weather. People, It's soup time... and waffle-time... and stew time... and above all, time to move south, like Spain or Rome.

     
  19. siduri

    siduri

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    That's how my basil looked when it was still healthy!  now it's thin, floppy and yellowish.  Maybe too much water?  since the intense heat (around 35-40C) is gone and now it's more moderate though still short sleeve weather, and the sun is slightly lower in the sky and the basil has more hours of shade, maybe it's getting too much water. 

    anyway, it's ok, i can buy basil easily enough.  But it's strange because the green basil always goes to seed and this year it's just dying without going to seed, so that means something must have gone wrong. 
     
  20. geno

    geno

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     they will if you don't tell them.